Consultation about inspecting Childminding Agencies – My thoughts   2 comments

So at long last the Ofsted consultation on inspecting childminding agencies has been published

If you have not responded yet PLEASE DO SO – and PLEASE ask everyone you know to do so as well.

This is the link      Link to Ofsted Consultation on inspecting childminding agencies

You can respond online or complete it in a word document on your computer (or print it and fill it in by  hand)  and post it to Ofsted.

HOWEVER before you do respond PLEASE read my thoughts below – because as usual this consultation is designed to get the responses the government wants. Questions are closed, statements are general, responses are limited.

FIRST  WARNING – if you tick ‘agree’, the government will not take any notice of your further comments when publishing the headline results, and so you will  perhaps unintentionally, ensure the government get the response they want.

So unless you agree 100% with not just the statement in the question but everything (this is actually the fine detail behind the statement  that you are not given) – then tick the disagree box

As an example;

Question 2

‘To what extent do you agree or disagree that Ofsted should make an overall judgement on the overall quality of a childminding agency?’

At first glance this would appear a straight forward question and requires that the ‘agree’ box is ticked

But should it?

Look at point 14 on the consultation document  – it says;

‘ The overall effectiveness of the agency’s services to childminders, taking  account of;

– the effectiveness of the agency’s arrangements for assuring itself of the quality of the care and education provided by childminders registered with it

– the quality and standards of the services offered by the childminder agency to the childminders registered with it

– the quality of leadership and management of the childminder agency

From a personal perspective I think by ticking the  ‘agree’  box – I would be saying ‘yes I am happy with all those things’. However I am not happy about all those things, in particular;

‘An agency being graded on its own assurance about the quality of care and education provided by the childminders registered with it’.

If a agency childminder follows the ‘rules’ set by the agency – then of course the agency will be assured that all is as it should be – how could they not be assured?. They would be making a judgement against their own criteria.

Would it not be better if Ofsted based their judgement on if they agreed with the agency’s ‘rules’ and their judgements about individual childminders? So in the ideal world an individual inspection of every agency childminder – but as I now  accept that this is extremely unlikely – then at least Ofsted should inspect a good % of the agency childminders – not just a small sample – and in the ideal world these individual inspections should take place before the Ofsted inspection of the agency. That way Ofsted could compare their judgement against that of the agency, and because individual inspections carried out before the agency inspection – it would be as fair as possible and without any preconceived judgements made from reading the agency documentation.

So by only looking in detail at one point under question two – it is clear that I do not ‘agree’ with the statement – and so in my online response I ticked the disagree box. I did of course go on to give reasons in the comments box.

Moving on to question 3

To what extent do you agree or disagree that childminder agency judgement  should be made against this four point scale?

Again at first glance, it is easy to think – of course I agree – same grades as everything else  – yes agency’s should have the same grades BUT on further reflection by saying I agree ….. Am I saying that I think an agency grade that is applied to all the childminders in that agency is a good thing?

Well I can’t say that I agree with the statement in question 3, as I am totally opposed to childminders in an agency all having the same agency based grade. So once again I personally felt that I had to tick the disagree box – not because I don’t want agencies to be graded on a four point scale – but because I don’t want that agency grade to be used by agency childminders – I want them to have their own grade based on their individual practice.

It won’t be a surprise to readers to read that question 4 is a similar one – on first reading – straight forward but on second reading not so straight forward.

Question 4 says;

‘To what extent do you agree that Ofsted’s inspections should take into account the agency’s ability to use self evaluation to improve their practice?’

I am a great supporter of self evaluation and reflective practice – however with agencies I do have a bit of a problem, because their self evaluation will be about their systems – those of the staff and the agency as a whole – it will not be about the practice of the individual agency childminders. To my mind, it is the no use self evaluating systems if there is not any self evaluation by and about the agency childminders – the ones looking after the children. Of course I am assuming that the childminders will use self evaluation but my point is it will only be the agencies self evaluation that Ofsted take any notice of. And that is wrong – very wrong.

As an example lets take a basic scenario – the agency says in their self evaluation that they have a wonderful risk assessment recording sheet – it covers everything, is easy to use because all the childminders need to do is tick the boxes. Their self evaluation records that 100% of childminders visited have shown them risk assessment sheets ticked, signed and dated. therefore the agency concludes they have an effective system, and their self evaluation is that nothing needs changing

HOWEVER – although they have  100% of childminders visited using the tick and sign list – this does not tell the whole story – (please remember that this is a made up scenario) – 35% of those visited with tick lists in place actually sit in front of the TV on Sunday evening and tick everything then sign it – they don’t check anything!  52% tick the charts but then do their own in head risk assessment and remove risks through out the day as needed. They don’t tell the agency staff because – well they don’t want to rock  the boat or to have to explain everything – or risk being told not to do it in future. And the other 13% just don’t bother and in all honesty had not filled in the charts but had been supported by agency staff to  back fill in and sign – so that childminder and agency staff don’t get into ‘trouble’

So the facts presented do not actually suggest that the agency risk assessment system are effective – but no one knows or will know unless there is a ‘headline case’ in the future when a child is seriously hurt.

Plus although the agency can say that 100% of childminders visited in the last cycle of monitoring – this does not mean all the agency childminders were visited in that cycle – a bit like Ofsted inspections really –  in any yearly stats given in the annual report only aprox 25% of the number of childminders will have been visited that year.

In my opinion if you apply this to all aspects of self evaluation of the agency of its systems, it is easy to see how this alone is not sufficient to warrant a grade that is applied to the agency and to all that agencies childminders.

Question 5

‘To what extent do you agree or disagree that Ofsted should incorporate the views of individual childminders and parents involved with agencies into the inspection evidence to contribute to its inspection judgements?

Oh – an easy one!  Of course that is a ‘I agree’

Hang on though read the information point 18 – the last sentence

‘By surveying a number of stakeholders, inspectors can gain a broad view of the childminder agency’s services and can discuss any issues raised with the agency during its inspection’

So only ‘a number’ – not all

And ‘will be discussed with the agency’ – not with those raising the concerns.

So once again – I felt I could not respond with a ‘I agree’  because the Government would use my ‘agree’ as part of their evidence that people agree with them – as in so many respondents said …….

Therefore in my personally response I ticked the disagree box – but I did say in the comments box how important childminders and parents views are – and gave detail about why I had not ticked the agree box.

So moving to question six – (the last one apart from the bit that asks for information about yourself and how you found filling in the questionnaire)

‘To what extent do you agree or disagree that childminder agency inspection reports should be published on the Ofsted website?’

At last something I fully agree with – and checking the information in point 22 I can see it is so parents and childminders can compare agencies and decide which (if any) to use

So I did tick the agree box BUT I also added comment about the need to also have information available about the judgements of every single agency childminder preferably made by Ofsted but as a minimum those made by the agency.

Oh nearly forgot – question 1

‘To what extent do you agree or disagree that we should give no notice of inspection to childminder agencies?’

Actually I did agree with this, as it is the only way to gain a true picture of ‘how it really is?’

However I left this question to last because I think the other questions should be considered first. Yes no notice inspections are vital BUT the information given makes me think that inspections of childminding agencies will be on the whole, a waste of time and will not provide information needed by parents or childminders about the agency itself – and will not provide information about the quality of the agency childminders – so I put this in the comments box.

I also commented in the box about the consultation – as I felt (as stated earlier in this blog) that the questions were closed, had limited options and were worded to get the response the Government wanted.

I hope you have found this blog useful – however I must end with the following

The views expressed in this blog are my own – readers of this blog should fully consider their own response to the questions in the consultation and not just respond as per this blog – unless of course that is how they personally want to.

Posted January 24, 2014 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

2 responses to “Consultation about inspecting Childminding Agencies – My thoughts

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  1. Pingback: Blog re Consultation and Agencies

  2. Thank you for the information about the consultation and all your hard work generally on behalf of children, parents and childminders. I share your concerns about the actual questions and scepticism about such questionnaire type consultations and the blatantly closed and leading questions and the statistics that can be generated from them! This hardly constitutes a consultation! Unfortunately, if childminders and parents views are sought beforehand, which would be sensible, the agencies probably won’t be able to be inspected without notice. There again, as you point out, these will hardly be inspections as we know them…they will be ‘checking of systems’…all smacks of arms length deregulation!

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